Researchers' discovery of electrostatic spin topples century-old theory

In a discovery that is likely to impact fields as diverse as atomic physics, chemistry and nanotechnology, researchers have identified a new physical phenomenon, electrostatic rotation, that, in the absence of friction, leads to spin. Because the electric force is one of the fundamental forces of nature, this leap forward in understanding may help reveal how the smallest building blocks in nature react to form solids, liquids and gases that constitute the material world around us.

Sorting matter with tiny fingers of light

Chicago physicists are set to announce they’ve successfully used multiple beams of light to selectively sort microscopic particles, biological cells and large molecules. Manipulating these beams of light has led to one of the newest techniques in microfluidics, the science of transporting fluids through networks of miniature channels. University of Chicago Physics Professor David Grier calls the new technique “optical fractionation,” because it involves using light to sort one fraction of objects from another.

Physicist designs perfect automotive engine

Marlan Scully, the Texas A&M University professor who applied quantum physics to the automotive engine and came up with a design that emits laser beams instead of exhaust, has been tinkering under the hood again. This time, he’s sized up the perfect engine — and improved it. Scully, known as the “Quantum Cowboy” for his innovations in quantum physics and his Franklin Society prize-winning research into beef cattle production, has invented a theoretical design more efficient than the Carnot engine, which had stood for nearly two centuries as the standard for efficiency — an engine so ideal it exists only in theory.